Contrasting Lives

“For each age is a dream that is dying,

Or one that is coming to birth…”

Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844 – 1881)


Two men met on a road that day. They had been travelling in opposite directions.

The first man, an elderly gentleman, was driving an open black buggy pulled by a white horse. The man was dressed in a black tuxedo, white shirt and black, hand-tied bow tie. On his head he wore a straw hat, his only exception to formal attire. As he and his horse travelled down the road at a leisurely pace, both seemed to enjoy every aspect of their journey; the rhythmic clip-clop of the horse’s hooves, the grain ripening in the fields, the blue sky with a few puffy white clouds dotting the horizon. Crowding the shallow ditch alongside the road grew masses of yellow Black-Eyed Susan, mingling with Blue Chicory and white Oxeye Daisy. Time no longer mattered—only the day and the moment. He pulled his carriage to a stop along the verge. Slowly and cautiously, he climbed down. The set of his shoulders no longer firm, his back slightly hunched over. Taking a black cane from the floor of the buggy, he walked stiffly to the ditch. Easing his body forward, he picked a bouquet of wildflowers.

As he turned to make his way back to the carriage, he noticed a white car speeding towards him. As it approached, the car slowed, then swung to the side of the road, its tires kicking up gravel as it came to a halt.

A tall, handsome young man with dark, curly hair grazing the back collar of his shirt jumped out of his sleek car and slammed the door. As he hurried across the road toward the buggy, the elderly gentleman noticed that the young man was wearing a tuxedo suit—white jacket with black lapels and black trim on the jacket pockets. The man’s trousers were black, his shirt white and he was wearing a black silk tie.

“Excuse me, sir but I am astonished to see a horse and buggy driving down this road.”

The elderly gentleman smiled. “Well, young man, it is perfectly reasonable you may not have seen me. You see, I only do this once a year.”

The young man looked questionably at him. “Once a year?” he repeated.

Yes. You see this is the day of my 61st wedding anniversary."

“Sixty first? Wow! That’s a long time. So, that’s why you’re dressed up.”

The man nodded. “And you? I gather you’re headed someplace special. A wedding perhaps?”

“Yes, it’s mine and if I don’t hurry I’m going to be late.”

The elderly man chuckled. “Well now, it wouldn’t do to keep your bride waiting, would it? And where may I ask are you being married?”

“In the church at the top of the hill,” replied the young man.

“Why, that’s wonderful! That’s where my wife and I were married many years ago. It was a day just like today—a good harbinger for your wedding. May I wish you and your bride a long and fulfilling marriage.”

As the elderly man reached out his hand to shake the hand of the young bridegroom, the young man asked suddenly. “Where is your wife?”

The man smiled sadly. “She is buried in the cemetery beside the church in which you are to be married," he replied gently.

Shocked and somewhat confused, the young man remarked, “But sir, aren’t you headed in the opposite direction?”

“Yes,” smiled the old man. "But you see, I wanted to pick a bouquet of my wife’s favourite wild flowers before I visited the cemetery.”

The End


Contrasting Lives

In 1995 I began a series of stories titled The Recorded Adventures of the Birds of a Feather Quilting Bee. A couple of these were published in The Canadian Quilter. Several stories were published in the discontinued Canada Quilts and many more of these quilting short stories were published in Canadian Stories.
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